Thinking of holding a design contest on yer fave crowdsourcing site? Here’s the top ten under-handed tactics to use to screw over a whole bunch of designers, while still getting lots of free design goodies..

Ethics. Smethics. It’s about choice. Loads of choice. It’s about designers. Loads of designers. It’s also about getting free stuff. Let’s begin..

10: Invite designers to participate!

You would think that with the boasted “communities” of 80,000 plus, you wouldn’t have to invite designers to participate in your contest, but all design contest sites make this an option. Avail yourself of that option. Send ’em an e-mail. Invite them trough Twitter. Invite them through the host site itself. Oddly, while claiming that portfolios and experience don’t matter, most crowdsourcing sites showcase both on their sites. That way, they can convince us how good they are, with their designers’ portfolios and experience. Pay no heed to that apparent contradiction. Use the portfolios available to invite really good designers to your contest. Make sure that they’ve entered a lot of contests before yours (many people sign up on crowdsourcing sites and never enter any contests – no point in inviting them now, is there?) A high prize should tempt even the most wary designer to throw their hat into the ring so we’re going to…

9: Crank up those awards!

Crowdsourcing sites tell us that higher prizes attract more designers, and better designers, so set a really high prize. The higher the better. Lots of designers will be wooed by your huge contest prize, the crowdsourcing site will use your contest as an example of how really cool their services are and will feature your contest on their home pages, Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. That means more design goodies than you could ever imagine.

“But this is supposed to be about ‘free’ design goodies!”

you exclaim. Patience grasshopper, we’ll get to that in a minute. But first, we’re going to…

8: Hold multiple contests for the same project!

Whether you do this on the same crowdsourcing platform, or different ones, doesn’t really matter. Nobody monitors these contests (and any wise-acre designer who complains in the forums and contest threads is more likely have their knuckles rapped by the host site than taken seriously). Having two contests running simultaneously is the best way to get tons of goodies. Bonus tip – use different user names for each version of your contest. “But wait!” you exclaim, “isn’t that going to cost me double?” Ahm no, grasshopper it isn’t (as we’ll see in a few seconds). It will , however, positively guarantee you’ll get double the designers. Though, even with hundreds and hundreds of designers now toiling away on your dual contests, we still want to make sure that we get the right design so we’re going to…

7: Get designers to copy each other!

Some designers come up with what they like to call “concepts.” These are ideas for your logo that are kinda clever. Sometimes, the concept may be cool, but the execution is a little lackluster. Not a problem. Simply ask one of the designers (whose style you do like) to knock-off the concept that’s caught your fancy. Word of caution here – designers aren’t too down with this notion and will kick up a fuss when somebody rips off their concept. That’s why we’re going to…

6: Hold a private contest!

The idea behind private contests is simple. Only participants in your contests can view anything, and in most cases, only their own entries. Some crowdsourcing sites, through NDAs (Non Disclosure Agreements) even allow you to stop participants from using the work they’ve entered into your contest in their portfolios. Do that too. Private contests allow you to take concept A (from one poor sap) and have it recreated by designer B, just like we suggested. Nice thing with private contests is that nobody is the wiser. Word of caution here. One of the biggest problems with crowdsourcing is the submission of knocked-off work (see The Unethical Designer’s Guide to Entering Design Contests). As the sites tell us that ‘self-policing’, by other participants, is the stop gap against such nefarious activities, in private contests yer on yer own. While you’re having fun with your private contest, always remember to…

5: Ask for the moon!

You’ll get it. Most design contests held by major brands are of the ‘fire and forget’ variety. You know, a designer does a design, enters it into the contest and Bob, as they say, is your Uncle. Not so in organized design contests held on crowdsourcing sites. There, you can ask for revision after revision (often referred laughingly as ‘feedback’) and the dopey designers will jump to fulfill your every whim.

Color changes? No problem.

Text changes? No sweat.

Move that icon a micron to the left? Ask away.

You’re only limited by the amount of time you’re willing to spend asking for revisions – err, providing feedback (according to one contest site, designers “thrive on feedback”). Any designer who questions your seemingly endless stream of revision requests – err, feedback – withdraw their entries. That will keep any other upstarts in line too. Keep in mind that all this takes time, so you’ll want to..

4: Extend your contest often!

Most design contest sites have deadlines. Some even claim that if you don’t pick a winning design in the time allotted, they’ll pick one for you. This, like most claims made by crowdsourcing sites is rubbish. They won’t pick a winner for you – instead, they’ll extend your contest. The longer they hold on to your money the better it is for them. That gets you more designers. More submissions. Here’s a tip though – don’t extend your contest too many times as some smarter designers will start to catch and start to withdraw their entries. Before you’ve had a chance to…

3: Use the artwork!

Ideas are free, right? So right-click-save is your friend. Don’t just look at the designers’ entries on the crowdsourcing site. Download them to your hard drive. Open a folder and fill it up with all that designery goodness. Some people are going to tell you that the artwork you’re downloading is in low-resolution bitmap, and you need high resolution vector versions. Chortle. Any idea how little it costs to have some kid in South East Asia convert a bitmap to vector image? Very little. Anyhoo, by using this time-tested internet technique you’ll avail yourself of the work of dozens of designers, with (in theory anyway) only paying one. But we’re going to dodge that bullet as well, because you’re going to…

2: Have a buddy enter your contest!

Or better still, enter it yourself. Asking for a refund after hundreds of designers have shown you hundreds of concepts is a tactic reserved for only the most accomplished scumbag, so if that’s not you, here’s an alternative. Award yourself the prize. As long as somebody is picked, spec work designers seem to be happy with their lot in life. They don’t have to know you’re awarding a buddy. Or yourself. Here’s some tips – use a different IP number and sign up as a creative or designer. Do this before you run any contest. From that account, enter a few contests using some random crap you’ve cobbled together in Microsoft Paint (this will establish some cred as a ‘creative’ and will pass cursory inspection by the host site) and half way through your own contest, enter it. Award your shadow account the prize, you’ll get your own money back and everyone will be happy. Which brings us to the most under-handed tactic available, reserved only for those with really big brass balls…

1: Ask for yer money back!

As hard as it is to believe (but completely awesome nonetheless) most crowdsourcing sites offer a “100%, no questions asked, money back guarantee.” Regardless of how many designers have dog-and-ponied for your entertainment. Granted, it’s not exactly 100% – they keep their listing fee and whatever upsells they con you into purchasing – but what’s a couple of bucks for all the lovely design freebies you walk away with? So, ask for your money back. No questions asked, remember? And if they do have any questions, perhaps it’s time to charge back your fees. If this is too icky, even for the professional scumbag, keep this in mind – one lucky designer might be picked by the contest site and awarded anywhere from $50 to $100 for their hard work (regardless of how high the original award was.) That is, unless the contest side is awarding themselves through a ringer account (see The Scumbag’s Guide for Running a Crowdsourcing Site).

Footnote: This was originally published under the heading “The Scumbag’s Guide to Crowdsourcing” but we figured that was a little over the top. True, but over the top.